The Rotary Club of Key West

Service Above Self Since 1916



Club founded by Jefferson Browne and meetings were held at a store on Duval Street. Henry Flagler's Railroad was just 4 years old. The Rotary Club of Havana was founded the same year. Both clubs were sponsored by the Rotary Club of Jacksonville.


Members of the Rotary Club of Key West were instrumental in establishing the Key West Chapter of the American Red Cross.


Eighteenth amendment to the US Constitution outlaws the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages.  Key West becomes a "rum-running" center because of its proximity to Cuba.


Rotary President J.Y. Porter "raised the mischief" when he discovers that Rotary name being used without permission for a minstrel show to benefit Boy Scout Troop 2.  The show was performed entirely by Rotarians.


Club embarks on a project to clear an area for the future "Bayview Park". Rotarians outfitted in overalls and blue chambray shirts spent two hot afternoons chopping down heavy underground and grass.  Thirty employees of the Key West Electric Company then headed by Rotarian Bascom Grooms volunteered to help.


A conservation-minded club endorses a plan to ban the shooting & trapping of birds and protecting the Key Deer.


Pan American Airways begin regular service from Meacham Field ( now Key West International Airport) to Havana.  Developer Malcolm Meacham presents plans to our Club.


Songs for the Rotary Club, Key West, Florida published which featured the "Rotary Song" with a notation on the bottom of page 4:  "You can't sing if you have a grouch."


Rotarian Edward Strunk urges fellow Rotarians to support the establishment of the Everglades National Park.  The club voted unanimously to have the members write the Florida legislature urging their support of the bill.


The Great Depression hits.  Edward Strunk becomes Club President with only 19 members.  Adds 10 new members in one year.


Treasurer Bill Bates said he had a bone to pick with the Ladies Guild who served lunch because they charged 60 cents instead of 50 cents for each person.


Rotary Club focused on rebuilding the overseas railroad that was destroyed by the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.  Club delegation travels to Cuba to enlist government assistance for rebuilding efforts.

After a report by Director Bascom Grooms on the hurricane damage to the railroad, Edward Strunk convinced the Board to endorse the idea of converting the railroad bridges to handle vehicular traffic.


Sebastian Cabrera Jr.  and Charles Smith travel to the 1938 Rotary International Convention in San Francisco.   The Rotary Club of Key West sponsors Boy Scout Troop 52.  The state music director under the WPA writes club president seeking support for brining the federally-subsidized Florida Symphony Orchestra to Key West.


Following WW II, club spearheads a movement for Monroe County to purchase from the War Assets Administration the area now known as Higgs Beach for $28,000.

Charley Toppino & Sons agreed to enlarge the beach area with sand in return the county sold him the rock at 30 cents per yard.


The Rotary Club launches a new program to send a rising senior at Key West High to Girl's State in Tallahassee.  Merili Hilton, later wife of Rotarian and Key West Mayor "Sonny" McCoy, was selected as the club's first sponsored senior in the summer of 1947.


The Citizen reported that the Club held a "ladies night" at the La Concha Hotel.  Norma Dopp, wife of Rotarian Robert Dopp (President 1949-1950), was the President of Rotary Ann.  Mrs. Dopp was a beloved music teacher who at 95 still lived in her home on Frances Street.


Key West Red Cross Chapter appeals to Rotarians for blood donations to help those serving in Korea.  Monroe County Cerebral Palsy requests Rotarians support in opening a clinic in Key West hoping to raise $3,000.


Paul Sher congratulated on front page of The Key West Citizen for his election as President of The Rotary Club of Key West during the regular meeting at the La Concha Hotel.


Edward Knight is inducted into our club as a new member on July 1st.   Mr. Knight came to Key West as an aviator.  He established a successful real estate firm and was one of the most respected and honored philanthropists in our community. Mr. Knight was active in our club and enjoyed giving his "birthday dollars" to our sergeant-at-arms, Virginia Panico.


The Rotary Club of Key West helps organize the Rotary Club of Marathon.


The Club celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a "gala cocktail party and dinner held at the Trade Winds Supper Club in the Holiday Inn".


While returning Vietnam Veterans were "overlooked" by many Americans, the Rotary Club invited four wounded US Marines to the club luncheon to honor their service.


The Rotary Club donated $344 to start the "Parade of Palms" rolling along North Roosevelt Blvd. The money paid for 20 of the 192 palm trees with an extra $4 for the fertilizer fund.

Members of the Key West High School Interact Club attend club meeting held at the Country Club.  Interact Club reports that they had sent baskets to our soldiers in Vietnam and had embarked on several projects to help the needy. 

Emil "Tuffy" Roberts inducted as new member on November 1st.  "Tuffy" remained active in our club as our Raffle Coordinator.  Every week Tuffy picked the numbers to cries from the audience:  Dig Deep Tuffy, Keep It In The Family.


Edward Toppino inducted into club as a new member on December 1st.  Mr. Toppino remains active in our club today and is an well respected philanthropist and businessman.  He sits at a table with one of the most dedicated members of our club, Sandra Higgs


Fourth of July fireworks starts as a new Key West tradition with financial support from the Rotary Club of Key West.


When club members heard that the Key West Cemetery was overgrown with weeds and needed sprucing, they worked on four weekends to shape up the cemetery.


The club established an active Interact Club, sponsored a District Conference at the Casa Marina.  The projected budget was $68,415.


The Rotary Club of Key West sponsors The Sunrise Rotary Club in Key West and established The Key West Rotary Foundation.


The Rotary Club of Key West celebrates its 75th Anniversary at the Holiday Inn Beachside. The club had 98 members who sponsored the July 4th fireworks on White Street Pier; funded a $6,000 college scholarship at Key West High School; donated to over 16 local charities and youth organizations; and sponsored the local D.A.R.E. group.


First woman member, Elizabeth Freeman joined the club. Sandra Taylor and Virginia Panico followed in subsequent years.


Karen Thurman elected first woman club President.


Club is growing at a healthy rate and moves meetings to the new Beachside Resort to accommodate growth. Several new members in the pipeline.
  Current active membership stands at 120. Club projects focus on changing needs of Key West community.  President Janice Long institutes several changes to club operations including automating club functions, launching club website, and increasing club member diversity.  "Welcome To Key West Sign", a project launched several years ago, finally completed. Rotarians sponsored the cost of the sign located at the entrance to the Island and secured the necessary approvals for installation.


After a major earthquake in Haiti, the club applied for a grant from Rotary International and was awarded  $47,000 to establish a Nutritional Support Center at Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti, the hospital we have sponsored for three decades.  President Rudy Molinet also started a program whereby the Four-way Test was taught at the Sigsbee Charter School.  Fourth graders performed 4 community service projects throughout the year modeled after the 4 -way test.  Forty students joined 80 Rotarians at our lunch meeting. The students were inducted as "Junior Rotarians" and received Rotary Theme Pins for "Building Communities, Bridging Continents", the RI theme for the year.